Emotion is a powerful thing in sports. It can carry you past a more talented opponent or it can lead you to make a penalty or mental mistake that hurts your team because you are a bit too keyed up. It can also cause you to show off a bit too much and a bit too loud, rousing a sleeping giant in the process. The New Orleans Saints experienced all three last season. They played at a fever pitch in a Superdome filled with Katrina survivors and flew to the NFC Championship Game with the NFL's best offense. It was in that game that they got bitten by the other two emotional outbursts. They turned the ball over five times and committed seven penalties, falling behind 16-0 before Reggie Bush electrified the team with another spectacular play. He punctuated an 88-yard touchdown with a somersault and we'll never know if that turned a potential Saints win into a loss but a 16-14 Bears lead became a 39-14 whalloping and New Orleans was done.
How much did the Saints learn from their emotional season? They came from nowhere last year but won't have the same benefit this year. Everyone knows who Marques Colston is and knows Bush can play at this level and they know that a trip to the Crescent City won't be the cakewalk it was in recent years. They got every break to go their way from that first Monday Night matchup that returned them to New Orleans to the win over the Eagles in the playoffs. Did it run out for good in Chicago or will the Saints pick up where they left off?
Elsewhere in the division, the Panthers disappointed after being a trendy pick for the Super Bowl before the season began. That disparity was blamed on Jake Delhomme and he'll need to play better if the Panthers are to return to the playoffs this season. The Buccaneers are no more certain about their quarterback play. Jeff Garcia was excellent as Donovan McNabb's replacement but on a team with less overall talent than the Eagles will he soar as high? Atlanta would love to have either of those problems at quarterback instead of the one that they do have.